US Politics

Why Arithmtics Is Important.

Alternet has the transcript of an interview of Princeton economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman that was conducted by Terence McNally for his programme “Free Forum” on KPFK, a Los Angeles radio station. Of course, Krugman has a new book out (and I’m not talking about the economics textbook he has been writing with his wife Robin Wells) that needs to be marketed. Although The Great Unravelling doesn’t need to be marketed too badly, as it is already on the NY Times bestseller list.

And there’s a reason the book is a bestseller. Not only is Mr Krugman one of the rare breed of economists who did not loose the ability to use words after having been exposed to intermediate economics, he also able to apply the knowledge acquired in said lecture to gain a much clearer understanding of certain things than many others – and write about them. Mr Krugman is a convincing man, because he, as opposed to many of his newly acquired followers on the left, as well as those from the tirghtwho fiercly oppose him, can do his own arithmetic. And this is how he became one of the most influential critics of President Bush’s policies, economic and otherwise, as hailed by a left in dire need of credible backing as hated by the right.

Particularly in recent months, he has been villified by the right-wing US establishment for his alligation that the current administration had not only been lying about pretty much every policy enacted but also that this presidency’s main political objective were to destroy any possible future role for redistributional federal policies by depriving the government of a viable tax base (and thereby, in the long run, effectively lock in the kind of plutocratic autoritarian bourgeouis society favoured by the people in power in the US these days).

It is hard to argue with such assertions without a proper grasp of, well, the numbers he used to come to that conclusion. But his book’s main point is actually not what I found most remarkable in the radio interview mentioned above. What I found most remarkable was his claim that the American media was not reporting as truthful as possible because of a climate of fear – maybe that’s another reason why the US did not fare too well in the latest press freedom report by the NGO Reporters Sans Frontières (#31).

Here’s what Paul Krugman said –

Krugman: … One is that the media are desperately afraid of being accused of bias. And that’s partly because there’s a whole machine out there, an organized attempt to accuse them of bias whenever they say anything that the right doesn’t like. So rather than really try to report things objectively, they settle for being even-handed, which is not the same thing. One of my lines in a column – in which a number of people thought I was insulting them personally – was that if Bush said the earth was flat, the mainstream media would have stories with the headline: “Shape of the Earth – Views Differ.” Then they’d quote some Democrats saying that it was round. Journalistic organizations are afraid of being accused of bias. There’s also a fair bit of low rate intimidation of journalists themselves. I have received a couple of elliptical death threats but they weren’t serious. The real stuff is the hate mail that comes in enormous quantities. Organizations try their best to find some scandal in your personal life and disseminate it. I don’t think a lot of journalists are sitting around saying: “I better not cross these guys, they’ll ruin me.” But they do know that every time they say anything the right doesn’t like to hear, they get the equivalent of a nasty electric shock. They sort of get conditioned not to go there.

Oh yeah, I remember: Land Of The Free, And Home Of The Brave.